Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Fabric of Life: Mother/daughter duo stitch together a career, a future at Smile Spinners.

My mother was an expert seamstress.

I have a picture of her posing proudly for the local newspaper in an outfit she created at the age of 13. Why then am I all thumbs when it comes to sewing?

The mother/daughter team at Smile Spinners thinks they can help me out. And, if they can help me, they can help you, too. To them, there’s nothing that a few classes—and a few well-placed stitches—can’t fix.

 

A Crossroads

The desire to help people is just one of the reasons that Cathy Queitzsch and Jessica Bacon enjoy operating Smile Spinners Fabric and Sewing Boutique in Marysville.

“I was born with a needle in my hand and went to sewing classes with my mom when I was in my playpen,” said Queitzsch, with a chuckle.

This is the second career for both women.

Before opening the business 20 years ago, Queitzsch served as the director of respiratory care at the Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg and later accepted a position in the Middle East, where she set up respiratory therapy programs.

“It was a fabulous experience for me and my family, and Jessica went to school with children from 52 different countries,” Queitzsch said.

While working in the Middle East, she toyed with the idea of running her own business and thought it might be in the medical field—until she had that “aha” moment.

“I realized that sewing was always fun and relaxing for me, and I wanted to create a community of people who share something in common that they can all do together,” she said.

Meanwhile, daughter Jessica had left the nest, but was becoming more and more disenchanted with her own career in the fashion industry.

“I was at a crossroads in my career in New York,” said Bacon. “I didn’t get into fashion to call someone at midnight to tell them that they needed to make stuff faster so that people here could buy it on sale. My morals were challenged a lot knowing what goes into making a garment that is sold in America for very little, and that someone earns as little as 8 cents a month, in some cases.”

Eventually, Bacon decided that home was where the heart was, and so she joined her mother, who also had returned to the Harrisburg area, to do what she loves—teaching classes, helping with the shop and getting to know customers.

 

Peaceful Place

The shop, painted in cheery hues of yellow and purple, houses 5,000 fabrics, a selection of sewing machines (one costing upwards of $16,000), patterns, notions and more.

Janice Buchner, who has been a customer for almost five years, just purchased a top-of-the-line machine.

“Prior to coming to the shop, I never sewed garments,” said the Harrisburg resident. “Now, I dabble in it and find it wonderful. If I come across a problem, they help me smooth it out. This is my peaceful place.”

If you haven’t sewn in awhile, Bacon recommends giving a new machine, with new technology—ahem—a spin.

“You can set the speed control, and it alerts you if your bobbin is running low,” she said. “You can cut your threads with a scissor function, as well.”

If you visit the shop, you’re likely to meet intern Margaret Dolbin, who attends the University of Delaware. She was attracted to Smile Spinners because she shares the same ideals as Bacon and Queitzsch.

“Before I came here, I knew I wanted to study ethics and sustainability,” she said. “They were knowledgeable and passionate about it, and it tied into my mindset.”

The team also works with the public on community projects. For instance, Buchner helped sew bags for the YWCA over Thanksgiving.

“We gave them to the domestic violence and safe houses and filled them with toiletries and clothing and all kinds of things,” Buchner said. “Each one was unique.”

 

Trend Forward

In the lot next to the shop is a standalone building where classes are held. Colorful quilts festoon the walls, providing inspiration for those interested in honing their sewing skills.

Classes can range from quilt making to home décor to garment making and mending. Those who are interested in creating a garment can be assured that the word “matronly” will never come to mind.

“We’re very trend forward,” Bacon said. “Having worked in the garment industry for 10 years on the design side of things, I am able to keep pace with the latest fashions. If you’re making something, I don’t want you to look dowdy.”

The duo said that they’re often surprised at how far people travel to reach them.

“A lady comes from Arizona and brings a suitcase of projects that are in various stages,” Queitzsch said. “She finds what she needs, and then we ship the items to her.”

What the mother/daughter team enjoys most about the business is that the line between work and play is blurred.

“That’s how relaxing sewing is to me,” Queitzsch said.

Bacon agreed.

“That’s why I moved home,” she said. “I was unfulfilled before. I am fulfilled now. What we can do for people and the community is awesome. People say, ‘I had a bad day.’ Then they come here and automatically feel better.”

 

Smile Spinners is located at 1975 Valley Rd., Marysville. For more information, call 717-957-4225 or visit www.smilespinners.com.

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